The Institute of Health Visiting very much welcomes the Health & Social Care Committee’s visionary report on the First 1000 Days of life – which calls for cross-government action to improve support and services for children and families in England and to reduce health inequalities in childhood through a range of actions.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“We know every health visitor will join us in being delighted that the Health & Social Care Committee’s six principles reflect our own health visiting priorities for offering effective early years services for every infant and reducing health inequalities.

“We particularly support the H&S Committee’s call for the Government to produce a long-term cross-government strategy for the first 1000 days of life to give every child the best start in life supported by joint NHS/Local Authority joint commissioning. We believe the vision could realistically be enhanced by adding an objective of reducing the number of children requiring referral to mental health services, something not unrealistic if the recommendations are implemented, and this would quickly demonstrate an economic benefit to the NHS from doing so.

“We also warmly welcome the report’s call for the Healthy Child Programme (HCP) to be revised, strengthened and given more importance in policy. We are pleased that an extra mandated contact at 3-3½ years by a health visitor is recommended to extend the current reach of the HCP and we continue to recommend there should also be an extra contact (home visit) at 3-4 months, and for these mandated contacts be seen as the minimum and to all be done by a health visitor.

“The report helpfully endorses most families’ desire to have continuity of care with a named midwife and health visitor and we welcome the call for strengthened links between obstetricians, midwives, health visitors and primary care services – this is so fundamental alongside continuity of care. Health visitors, who are often trained to master’s level are well placed to build relationships with families and identify those at risk of poor outcomes who would benefit most from targeted interventions. We fully support the strengthening of early identification of families’ needs during pregnancy, with provision available at all levels (universal, targeted and specialist). Movement between levels of intervention needs to be fluid as needs may change over time; some families only require short-term additional support whilst others require much longer-term input involving a range of partners, as so importantly stated in the report.

“The Committee’s recommendation that the Government uses the forthcoming Spending Review to focus public health funding towards early intervention for children and families is essential. This will also reduce future expenditure in later life for children requiring high levels of support which is the unfortunate cost from not acting early.

“We look forward to seeing how this report is accepted by the Government and hope that its recommendations could receive early endorsement if the ‘Prevention’ green paper takes a pathway approach from pregnancy to old age. We further hope that, if it attracts additional validation by the Taskforce led by Andrea Leadsom MP, its recommendations and framework for action can quickly be implemented, offering an early years building block to the Government’s new prevention strategy and creating some parity in the quality of early years services for infants across the UK.”

Find out more about iHV’s written and oral evidence to the inquiry